(This is Day 10 of our series on the “Best Card From” each year, 1960-1989. Read all the entries here.)

Some base sets just leave me so cold that it’s tough to justify picking any particular card as the best of the year. See 1968 for an example.

But the 1969 Topps set has plenty to offer, including a clean design and clear, crisp photography.

And it also has Mickey Mantle‘s last card.

Here are seven reasons — I mean “7” reasons — why Mantle is Number 1 in ’69.

It’s a Mickey Mantle Card

First off, some disclosure — I’m not a huge Mickey Mantle fan.

It’s not that Mantle wasn’t a great player, because he certainly was. Probably a top-20 all-time player no matter how you look at him.

But Mickey Mantle is — deep breath — overrated by a fair bit. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Still, there is no denying that few players can match the mystique of Mantle, and just the glimpse of one of his cards thrills even the detractors among us. Heck, we owe a large hunk of the 1980s boom and today’s thriving vintage market to Mantle and his 1952 Topps (faux) rookie card.

So pretty much any Mantle card issued during his career instantly becomes a candidate for “best card of” whatever niche you’re considering.

1969 Topps Mickey Mantle

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It’s Mickey Mantle‘s Last Card

There was a time in the late 1980s or early 1990s, after the rookie-card craze had created stupid situations like teenagers investing in 100-card lots of 1986 Topps Traded Kurt Stillwells, that a cadre of thinking collectors tried to inject some reason into the situation.

First, they came up with the idea that second-year cards were undervalued. The reasoning went that, while rookie cards often forced a young superstar to share cardboard real estate with one or more lesser lights, second-year cards almost always featured a solo shot. And the price disparity was crazy for cards issued just a year apart — sometimes up to a factor of 10,000 (possible slight hyperbole).

Then came the notion that final cards should be the most desirable of all a player’s cards since it represented the entirety of his storybook career. Never mind the fact that even future Hall of Famers were generally fat and gray on their last cards.

Or that last cards were usually issued during a player’s last season, meaning the statistical records fell short by a year.

Still, there’s something special about knowing that you have the final edition of something, that there are no more chapters to read.

And in the case of Mickey Mantle‘s last card, his 1969 Topps issue, it really was something special.

That’s because …

It Showcases the Complete Mickey Mantle Baseball Story

Turn over Mantle’s #500, and the top of the card tells you all you need to know:

The All-Star announced his retirement on March 1, 1969!

(Exclamation Topps’.)

They couldn’t believe that Mantle had left them in the cardboard lurch without a bona fide New York Yankees legend to showcase each spring and summer, and neither could the rest of the baseball world.

How could the great Mickey Mantle be done at just 37 years of age?

Well, it was because of women and booze and knees, of course, but still …

It was probably small consolation at the time that Mantle’s spring retirement meant his 1969 Topps card showed all his statistics, but it’s a boon to us now.

There were no more cards, and there were no more seasons — Topps managed to wrap up the Mantle package in one neat, 2-1/2″ X 3-1/2″ swath of cardboard that has told Mickey’s complete story for nearly 50 years.

1969 Topps Mickey Mantle Back

It Wasn’t a Recycled Photo

If you’re a fan of late-1960s Topps baseball cards, you might have noticed that some of the base cards in the 1969 set look familiar.

As in, the same photos were used in the 1968 Topps set — hello, Ernie Banks and Tom Seaver.

Or, they were used in the 1969 Topps Super set — we’re looking at you (twice), Jerry Koosman and Brooks Robinson (and Tom Seaver).

Somehow, Mantle avoided this fate and scored three different photos across the three sets. And, for our money, the 1969 base card is the best of the bunch, giving us the cleanest look at that famous Mantle mug.

White Letters

A small percentage of 1969 Topps cards in the #400-511 range somehow escaped the factory with white letters where there should have been yellow letters.

The culprit seems to have been a printing flaw of some sort, but the effect is much more significant. All of the white-letter variations are scarce and always in high demand, but one stands above them all.

Yes, that’s right — Mickey Mantle‘s last Topps card exists with the white-letter variation.

According to the PSA Population Report, there have been a total of just over 5300 yellow-letter Mantles submitted for grading but just 880 white-letter specimens as of this writing. Only one of each variation has scored a single GEM-MT 10.

As you can imagine, the white-letter card can bring some hefty sums — $4000 and up for PSA 8s and $1000 or so for PSA 6s.

In brief, the Mickey Mantle white-letter error is what happens when C. Nettles mates with the T206 Honus Wagner.

1969 Topps White Letter Mickey Mantle

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